There is a predominant idea in modern socionics that attributes collective values to Fe and individualism to Fi. This (mis-)understanding of Fe-Fi dichotomy links Fe to social and political activism, political ideologies, as well as claims the importance of traditions, social standing, appropriateness of one’s behavior in social situations and perceiving people as members of groups as features of Fe-valuing types.
In this article I will argue that since Fi is the ethics of relationships, then it would be inconsistent for Fe to be the ethics of social and political relationships. I will leave out the notions of collective vs individualistic for now and will explore those in a future article.
An illustration of attribution of social and collective to Fe and non-social and individualistic to Fi can be found for example on the Wikisocion website that is considered by many the main source of information on the socionics theory.
Fe is generally associated with the ability to recognize and convey (i.e. make others experience) passions, moods, and emotional states, generate excitement, liveliness, and feelings, get emotionally involved in activities and emotionally involve others, recognize and describe emotional interaction between people and groups, and build a sense of community and emotional unity.
Types that value Fe like creating a visible atmosphere of camaraderie with other people.
Much of their decisions are based on how they themselves, or others in relation to them personally, feel in contrast to considering how “the big picture” is affected (such as groups of people.)
The same approach appears on the Wikisocion’s information elements themes section:
Extraverted Ethics: emotional atmosphere, romanticism, cooperation, treatment, qualitative judgement of behaviour, sympathy, ethical estimations of observable actions, “ethics of actions”
Defining the scope
The traits under scrutiny here can be grouped into a dichotomy of social vs non-social. This dichotomy covers traditions, social standing, appropriateness of behaviour and so forth.
Let’s define the first dichotomy.
Social vs non-social
The word non-social proved to be easier to define than the word social:
Of undeveloped social instincts and habits; socially indifferent.
The best suited definition of the word social for the purpose of this article is:
Relating to society or its organization.
Relating to rank and status in society.
This entity – social – can also be broken down and narrowed down to representative instances for the purpose of further analysis.
One of those instances we can use is the concept of norms. The definition of the norms:
A standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.
Social norms can be collective (not to be confused with the term collective of our second dichotomy) or perceived. Collective norms are typically unwritten rules of a social group, perceived norms is an individual’s understanding of the collective norms.
(“An Explication of Social Norms”, Communication Theory, Volume 15, Issue 2, 1 May 2005, Maria Knight Lapinski and Rajiv N. Rimal, p. 129)
Another concept is society, which can be defined in multiple ways:
[…] a system of relationships that exists among the individuals of the groups.
[…] the largest group in which individual have relationships.
( this and more at http://www.studylecturenotes.com/social-sciences/sociology/133-what-is-society)
Mapping the Ethics (Feeling) Information Elements (Fe/Fi)
Fi in socionics is the ethics of relationships, which in itself points to the fact that this is the aspect that is responsible for inter-personal connections and that constitutes the social. It is also responsible for the moral, good/bad judgements and understanding what motivates others.
As shown in the previous section, the very term society is differentiated from a generic aggregation of people by the presence of relationships between them. It is natural to think that Fi is the aspect that would take interest in information that relates to society.
Putting emphasis on being part of society is essentially maintaining and managing relationships with other agents of society (or the society itself, depending on what sociological model you support). Hence thinking in terms of social groupings (societies, cultures, communities) equals to perceiving the world as a collection of relationships.
Another way of looking at it is to come back to the first instance of social we used – the norms. From the previous section we know that adhering to social norms means to behave in compliance with the groups’ expectations. In order to comply with these expectations, individual’s perceived norms need to match as closely as possible the collective norms. That would require solid understanding of motivations and inner wants of people of that group. Of course, one can understand those inner wants and go against them, consciously, but in order to comply the correct understanding is a necessary factor. In socionics the inner wants and motivations are in the Fi domain.
In other words to behave appropriately one needs to understand what is considered appropriate – to understand the inner workings of the value system of the group he is in. Same with a one-to-one interaction – it is a pre-requisite of being considered appropriate to be able to ‘read’ the other person.
Let’s contrast it with Fe. Fe in socionics handles moods and emotional atmosphere. In no way it relates to any of the social definitions and is inherently non-social.
Now if we go back to the Wikisocion description of Fe:
[…]and build a sense of community and emotional unity.
Types that value Fe like creating a visible atmosphere of camaraderie with other people.
This description and the rest of them quoted in the first section are meaningless without the Fi – the bonds between people, the relationships that they have created and managed. The Fe as they describe it is a mere framing for the Fi.
What does the original socionics theory say on the topic
In fact Ausra Augustinavicute’s original descriptions of Fe and Fi are consistent with my argument above.
Fe as described by Aushra deals with moods and emotional states and has nothing to do with the social level:
Extraverted ethics. Perceives the information about processes that happen in the object: mainly, about the emotional processes in people, their agitation and depression, moods. This aspect allows to have knowledge of what, for example, agitates people and what depresses them. The ability to control one’s own emotional state as well as the emotional states of others is defined by this aspect.
When this aspect is leading, the person has the ability to induce or transmit one’s own moods onto others, charge others with one’s own emotions: activate the spiritual life of others, their emotional readiness for activity. One may say, that this person is capable of infecting others with one’s own mood and tendency to force the emotional states he finds useful for the life-activity of these people.
[Russian language: Черная этика. Воспринимается информация о процессах, которые происходят в объектах: в первую очередь, о происходящих в людях эмоциональных процессах, их возбужденности или подавленности, настроениях.14 Этот аспект восприятия дает способность разбираться в том, например, что людей возбуждает, а что подавляет. Им определяется способность или неспособность человека управлять своим эмоциональным состоянием, а также эмоциональным состоянием других людей. Когда этот аспект восприятия ведущий, человек
отличается способностью индуцировать или передавать свои настроения другим людям, заряжать других людей своими эмоциями: Способен активизировать духовную жизнь других людей, их эмоциональную готовность к активности. Можно сказать что у такого человека есть способность заражать других своими настроениями и склонность навязывать другим именно те эмоциональные состояния, которые он считает полезными для жизнедеятельности этих людей.]
(“Socionics Introductions” [“Соционика. Введение”], 1998, p. 48-49)
Fi as described by Aushra deals with the needs of people, their relationships, and importantly is capable of understating and modifying one’s own wants and needs as well those of others, even more importantly she attributes ethical norms to Fi:
Introverted Ethics. Is a subjective relation between two carriers of potential or kinetic energy, that shows the attraction (or repulsion) of one object or subject by other objects or subject. Thanks to this IE the person feels what objects are attracting him and what objects are repulsing him. One may say that this aspect of perception brings in the information on usefulness or lack of uselessness of one object for another, on presence of absence of shared or one-sided needs.
Direct information about this aspect of objective reality, information received by the first signal system, an individual cognates as the need of particular objects, that satisfy the physical wants, wants of cultural or spiritual sort, the need in others. Those are wants and interests of people, directed at animated and non-animated subjects. That includes the feelings of sympathy – antipathy, love – hate, wanting to obtain some thing and so forth.
The higher feeling of this sort are called ethical, because the relations between the needs of people are usually regulated by ethical norms.
When this is a leading aspect, a person has the ability to see and evaluate wants – both one’s own and that of others, he always knows, who wants what from whom. [He is] capable to contrast his knowledge of the subjective world with that of the others, [to contrast] his wants with those of others.
He is capable to form and change not only his own wants, but those of others.
He has the ability to provide oneself with the required relationships, the certaninty in one’s ability to influence other people. A correct evaluation of human needs gives [them] the ablility to avoid risky clashes and satisfy own needs at the same time. This also creates the ability to manipulate the attachments of others to oneself, a skill and tendency to manipulate ethical feelings of other people, attempting to bring those feelings closer to the social ideal.
[Russian language: Белая этика. Это субъективное отношение между двумя носителями потенциальной или
кинетической энергии, показывающее притягиваемость (или отталкиваемость) одного объекта или субъекта с другими объектами и субъектами. Благодаря этому элементу ИМ человек чувствует, какие объекты его притягивают, какие — отталкивают. Можно сказать, что этот аспект восприятия приносит информацию о нужности или ненужности одного объекта другому, о наличии или отсутствии взаимных или односторонних потребностей.
Непосредственную информацию об этом аспекте объективного мира, информацию, получаемую по первой сигнальной системе, индивид осознает как потребность в определенных объектах, удовлетворяющих физические желания, желания культурно-духовного порядка и потребность в других людях. Это желания и интересы человека,
направленные на одушевленные и нео/:ушевленные предметы.
В том числе чувства симпатии — антипатии, любви — ненависти, стремление приобрести какую-то вещь и т. п. Жадность или отсутствие жадности.
Высшие чувства этого рода называют этическими, потому что взаимоотношения между потребностями людей в основном регулируются этическими нормами.
Когда этот аспект восприятия ведущий, человек отличается умением видеть и оценивать желания как свои собственные, так и других людей, он всегда знает, кто от кого и чего хочет. Способен противопоставлять свое познание субъективного мира познанию других, свои желания желаниям других.
Отличается умением формировать и изменять не только свои желания, но и желания других людей. Он отличается и умением обеспечивать себя нужными отношениями с людьми, и уверенностью в своих возможностях влиять на других людей. Правильная оценка человеческих потребностей дает возможность избежать рискованных столкновений
при удовлетворении собственных. Это порождает и способность манипуляции привязанностью других людей к себе, умение и старание манипулировать этическими чувствами других людей, старанием привести эти чувства к социальному идеалу.]
(“Socionics Introductions” [“Соционика. Введение”], 1998, p. 54-55)
Looking for the roots of the misconception
The roots of this view might go back to Jung and his descriptions of extroverted and introverted feeling attitudes and types.
Jung on Extraverted Feeling:
I may feel moved, for instance, to say that something is “beautiful” or “good”, not because I find it “beautiful” or “good” from my own subjective feeling about it, but because it is fitting and politic to call it so, since a contrary judgment would upset the general feeling situation.
In precisely the same way as extroverted thinking strives to rid itself of subjective influences, extroverted feeling has to undergo a process of differentiation before it it finally denuded of every subjective trimming. The valuations resulting from the act of feeling either correspond directly with objective values or accord with traditional and generally accepted standards.
(The portable Jung Edited by Joseph Campell 1971, p. 207)
In Jung’s original understanding of the two Feeling types, Fe being the extroverted attitude avoids the subjective and internal judgments and instead goes with the “objective” external evaluation (one that comes from outside). Consequentially Fe is understood as inherently social (impersonal).
On the other hand Fi is described by Jung as personal and is disinterested in social influences:
Their outward demeanor is harmonious, inconspicuous, giving an impression of pleasing repose, or of sympathetic response, with no desire to affect others, to impress, influence, or change them in any way.
(The portable Jung Edited by Joseph Campell 1971, p. 247)
Similar understanding of Fe and Fi is found in MBTI which might be another possible cause for confusion as many people came to socionics from MBTI:
Extraverted Feeling: Seeks harmony with and between people in the outside world. Interpersonal and cultural values are important.
Introverted Feeling: Seeks harmony of action and thoughts with personal values. May not always articulate those values.
In this article I’ve demonstrated that the social realm relates to the ethics of relationships (Fi) rather than the ethics of emotion (Fe).